LBDI President Promises New System to Transforms Banking in Liberia
MONROVIA – After 54 years of existence, the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) is finally coming off age with a new 5-year strategic plan designed to transition the Bank into the new banking world, the first of its kind in the country.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The new plan, according to the Bank’s president, Mr. John Davies, III, is designed to fit millennials into the banking system and revolutionize the way banking is done in Liberia. It is meant to bring banking at the doorsteps of customers.
“Thanks to the board of LBDI we approved a new five-year strategic plan in December 2018 and that five-year strategic plan is what we’re rolling out now,” he emphasized.
The transition, according to Mr. Davies, stems from the realization that banks in Liberia must either measure up in the country or “be like the dinosaurs”.
“Any bank that does not incorporate the millennials’ attitude in its strategic planning as a bank, that bank is preaching its own falling,” he said.
Mr. Davies disclosed that the perception that LBDI Bank is an old-fashioned bank has been at the center of their strategic planning and concerted efforts have been exerted to give the Bank a new face.
“The first real fruits of that five-year strategic plan are going to come out by November of this year. The Bank has invested in a brand new state-of-the-art ultra-modern banking system. In fact, in West Africa we would probably be the third bank to move to that system,” Mr. Davies said.
LBDI would now use a new platform dubbed Flexcube 14. “We have chosen to invest millions of dollars into the latest version of Flexcube,” he said.
Seventeen staff of the Bank have undertaken six weeks of training in India and would serve as trainers for the launch of the new system in Liberia. Six Indians are also in the country to work with the local team to ensure that staff are fully knowledgeable in the use of the new system.
What the new system offers
The new system is designed to reduce banking bureaucracies, ensure customer convenience, amongst others.
Speaking of the benefits of the new system, Mr. Davies that LBDI customers would now have full control of activities relating to their accounts without having to queue to meet a teller of a customer service agent.
Mr. Davies: “Right now as an LBDI customer, if you want to make a deposit, you have to go to an LBDI branch, on the new system you really don’t need to. On the new system, you an LBDI mastercard – currently we have it in prepaid, we have it in debit, and by this time next year we’ll have a credit one for it.
“You’ll also have access to an LBDI POS that would not be too far from you. So, LBDI is going to flood this market with point of sales (POS) all through the communities, meaning, LBDI will have agents in communities where LBDI customers are so that you do not have to come to the bank to make a deposit.”
The bank’s president disclosed that as part of plans to unfold the new banking system, the Bank would be recruiting the first 500 agents across the country with special emphasis on where LBDI customers are based on the analysis of their data base and also where the bank does not have a presence, like Lofa County. The 500 agents would eventually be increased to over 3,000 over a three-year period.
He said every school is part of the bank’s deposit program will have POS and the online capability so that they parents wanting to pay school fees would be able to do so easily through the LBDI app which would be downloadable to smartphones. “This is a system that ensures total control with convenience,” he asserted.
The new system being introduced by the bank would also bring about automated tellers. “There would no longer be a situation where you’ll see eight windows four tellers. When you enter the banking hall to deposit, the automated teller depositing machine is there, the only thing the LBDI staff will do is to just assist you,” he said.
The Flexcube 14 system would enhance direct deposit, making it easier and faster for the Bank to deposit salaries in the accounts of employees, both government and private.
Davies: “With the new system, when they tell you today is pay day, today is actually pay day. Right now, when they tell you today is pay day, they’ll send some excel file to the bank, some bank officers take that excel file puts it in a format that system would accept, upload it to the system, sometimes, if there is one account number wrong in that excel file the whole thing goes to start again and also calls for investigation; it takes efficiency out of the system, so, in essence when today is supposed to be pay day, today is actually not pay day.”
But the new regime would ensure that the human resource personnel of the institution that has a direct deposit with the bank would have a full link to the bank’s system and would be easily be able to set up payment that would immediately and simultaneously deposit salaries in the accounts all employees and customers would be able to withdraw their cash through the ATM.
The bank’s president disclosed that at the beginning of 2019, the bank had only four ATM machines and was later increased to nine. He said by next year, the bank targets having up to 40 ATMs around the country.
Mr. Davies assured that Bank’s management is fully committed to the setting up of agency banking operations, investment in cyber security and investment in outreach.
LBDI’s transformation would also affect in a positive way the way loans are given. The bank acknowledged that customers are often left frustrated when the bank requests for collateral before offering them loans.
“We’re implementing a new credit appraisal system that breaks and runs credit request into a three-category system but using technology,” Mr. Davies said.
Under the new system, LBDI customers would apply for loan online and the system would prequalify them as per the regulatory qualification set by the Central Bank and the questions asked by the system. Requisite documents would be uploaded in the system and then the system would schedule a date for the original copies to be submitted for verification. An electronic message (SMS, or email) would be sent when the loan is approved.
Mr. Davies assured that the new credit appraisal system would be more customer sensitive to people at the lower level because they, in most cases, face challenges in getting access to finance.
“How do I as president and CEO of this bank explain to someone who has been having account with this bank for almost 20 years and then his first time he wants to apply for loan and we begin to ask for collateral they don’t have. Far too often, we have not done justice to the people who are the basis for which we exist for 54 years and I will stop at nothing to ensure that that is corrected,” he lamented.
According to him, if the system asks you how long you’ve been with LBDI and the response, for example, is 10 years, fifty percent of the requirement for obtaining the loan would be automatically achieved.
“Depositors are investors, too. Investors is not only when someone takes money and buys shares; people who pledge their resources to that institution are equally investors in that institution and they deserve a return. So, the longer you have had an account with us, the greater your chance to benefit from our financial services,” he said.
Customers who have also kept a steady deposit relation with the bank would be alerted that they are pre-approved for certain amount automatically.